Happy Halloween! Let’s talk boo-boo-books!
It’s been awhile since I picked up an issue of Publishers Weekly and scouted out some good titles.
Last week’s issue made it pretty easy for me to pick out some new-to-me titles (some of yet won’t be out until 2015). Like anything else, there’s no telling if a book is a winner until you actually pick it up and read it yourself. Oh the pressure! But perhaps the best part of plucking up a new book and coming to the love it or hate it conclusion.
Here’s the lineup:
A Second Bite of the Apple by Dana Bate (November 2014)
Sydney Strauss is obsessed with food. Not with eating it–though she does that too–but with writing about the wonders of the gastronomic world, from obscure fruit hybrids to organic farming techniques. Since food journalism jobs are more coveted than Cronuts®, Sydney pays her bills working for one of TV’s biggest egomaniacs–until she’s left scrambling for shifts at a local farmers’ market.
Stacking muffins for the Wild Yeast Bakery isn’t going to win her any James Beard awards. But soon Sydney is writing the market’s weekly newsletter, and her quirky stories gain attention from a prominent food columnist. After years of putting her love life into deep freeze, she’s even dating again. And then Sydney gets a shot at the story, one that could either make her career or burn it to a crisp–along with her relationship and her reputation… (from Goodreads)
Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar (December 2014) — historical romance!
London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.
Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.
But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else. (from Goodreads)
The Last Cowboy in Texas by Katie Lane (December 2014) — country music + cowboys = a perfect combo!
Country music princess Starlet Brubaker has a sweet tooth for moon pies and cowboys: both are yummy-and you can never have just one. Now Beckett Cates may not be a cowboy, but he certainly has the heart, soul-and body-to whet her appetite. He’s a sexy ex-Marine with a touch hotter than the scorching Texas sun and arms strong enough to catch her when she lands into trouble.
Playing bodyguard to America’s sweetheart isn’t easy for Beckett. But falling for her sure is. Unfortunately, Starlet has a reputation for keeping a guy or two wrapped around her finger and Beckett refuses to be anybody’s backup. So now it’s up to Starlet to prove that she’s put her cowboy-crazy days behind her. Otherwise, she’ll be singing solo instead of living in harmony with the man who’s loved her even before her fame and fortune. (from Goodreads)
Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwaldo (January 2015)
Siem Sigerius is a beloved, brilliant professor of mathematics with a promising future in politics. His family—including a loving wife, two gorgeous, intelligent stepdaughters and a successful future son-in-law—and carefully appointed home in the bucolic countryside complete the portrait of a comfortable, morally upright household. But there are elements of Siem’s past that threaten to upend the peace and stability that he has achieved, and when he stumbles upon a deception that’s painfully close to home, things begin to fall apart. A cataclysmic explosion in a fireworks factory, the advent of internet pornography, and the reappearances of a discarded, dangerous son all play a terrible role in the spectacular fragmentation of the Sigerius clan. (from Goodreads)
The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos (March 2015) — loved her work in the past!
In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary—professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.
Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once.
Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister—a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir? (from Goodreads)
So what looks good?Don’t forget to share the great non-YA reads you’ve been reading lately!
The Fragile World by Paula Treick DeBoard ( web | twitter )
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: family, death, revenge, effects of traumatic events
Format read: Finished copy provided by Harlequin. (Thanks!)
Summary: When Daniel dies in a freak accident, his parents and sister have no way to predict the changes that will come to their family as the years go on.
Over a year later, I’m still recommending The Mourning Hours, Paula DeBoard’s debut, to people. It’s had a lasting effect on me; what can I say? Obviously, I’ve been looking forward to her second book since I finished the first, and yet again, DeBoard has written an engrossing and heartbreaking tale of a family dealing (or not dealing) with the impossible.
It’s been 5 years since Daniel’s death. The musical prodigy away at Oberlin College, struck down and killed in an accident. No one (except the driver) could have stopped this from happening but the logistics of a statement like that are kind of lost on Curtis (husband and dad) and Olivia (daughter and sister). Curtis completely detaches from his wife, his work (he’s a physics teacher), and basically his entire life, while Olivia is scared of everything. She records all of her fears (from the mundane to the ridiculous) in a Fear Journal, starts wearing all black, and steps away from her friends. Kathleen (wife and mom) tries her darnedest to push Curtis and Olivia to move forward but after giving it all she has, decides to move back to her hometown. Instead of deciding to go with her mom, Olivia stays with Curtis. So a family of four becomes three; becomes two and one.
Grief is a powerful emotion, and it’s difficult to see how much it steers the lives of Curtis and Olivia. Sure, they are getting through day-to-day together but they are not talking about the past, not bringing up Daniel, and certainly not making strides when it comes to living fulfilling lives. It’s not until Curtis has an episode at school that he decides the only thing he can do is kill Daniel’s killer, disguising his revenge road trip as a fun vacation with Olivia that will eventually lead back to Kathleen.
A majority of the book is told in the heads of Olivia and Curtis, as the chapters swap between the two. This tactic definitely made the book move a bit slower, but it only showcased DeBoard’s knack for dialogue because when it popped up, it was good. Despite their hurt, Curtis and Olivia do have this adorable father / daughter friendship and I enjoyed Olivia’s quips. In ways, I’m not sure what would have happened if Curtis didn’t decide to take this trip. I picture both of them living like Big Edie and Little Edie at Grey Gardens. But, sweet readers, things can only get worse especially when you aren’t communicating and your mind is just not functioning the way it should.
Yet again, DeBoard had me at the edge of my seat with The Fragile World but in a totally different way. Was there any way this family could be repaired? Could they move on? Would Curtis go through with his revenge plan? I truly had no idea until I reached the final page, and it left me totally shocked and surprised and even a little bit angry. But perhaps the most shocking thing is that I felt hopeful too. Maybe not a lot, but just enough that I was thinking a lot about what hitting rock bottom truly means, and also the different avenues that love and devotion can take us and bring us back.
Add THE FRAGILE WORLD to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | The Mourning Hours review
Well, hello! It’s been a while since I wrote something just to write. I read a book, Even in Paradise, several weeks ago and there’s a quote that’s been running through my mind. I’ve been trying to find the words to write this post; hopefully I’ve finally figured out what I want to say and don’t ramble. Bear with me if I do. Let’s start with the quote:
“I knew what I was doing. I was becoming that girl,
the one who drops all her old friends when a new,
exciting one comes around. I knew what I was doing
and I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want to.”
– Even in Paradise
My childhood friend, Sarah, and her daughter, Arla, meeting Everett for the first time a few weeks ago. Friends’ babies becoming friends! SO SWEET!
What I take from that quote (and from what was happening with Charlie at that time in the book) is that our friendships are categorized. That we can’t be friends with someone who likes art, studying, and focusing on school AND be friends with someone who is unfocused, a little wild, and doesn’t follow the beaten path. Charlie was so instantly attracted to Julia’s free-spirit, but she felt so nervous about what her other friends would think that she didn’t even attempt to get everyone together to see how well they meshed.
And maybe it’s because I hang out in the pages of young adult books that I find this pops up a lot in my reading, but do you believe this to be true — that we have to be either/or about who we hang out with?
I remember there being times in my life where I begged and prayed for friends who really clicked with me. I needed a core group that just got me. But as I’ve gotten older (ha, wow, does that feel terrible to write), I realize that’s such a narrow-minded attitude I had. There were my sports friends, my book friends, my church friends, etc. I didn’t allow them to intermingle and overlap. Even in college, my architecture friends didn’t really know my married friends. I was the odd girl who got married at 18, but also the girl who was still experiencing college. Balancing it all felt like such a chore. One that I definitely didn’t succeed at very well.
But there doesn’t have to be a THIS or THAT when it comes to friends. It’s so much more freeing to have adapted an all-inclusive attitude. I recently called up two friends — one I have known for a few weeks, another I’ve known for nearly a year — that had only momentarily met before to go shopping with me. It was spontaneous and spur of the moment, but why the heck not? I adore both girls and I knew they both needed time out, so why not do it together?
I’ve spent so, so much time in my life making sure everyone feels loved and happy. Ever the people-pleaser. I think that when I label my friends as being into books or fashion or DIY projects, it prevents me from getting to know more of them. I’m into all of those things and more — nail polish, makeup, hate cooking, love Target, Toms shoes-aholic, a wife, a church-goer, currently addicted to working out, a photographer, a good listener, a sympathizer. Why can’t my friends be more too? And why can’t a group of people hang out who don’t have absolutely every single thing in common? Won’t that push us to grow and mature?
So thankful for Estelle who understands my crazy, spastic interests. Who oogles over shoes with me, listens when I’m having a bad day, and gives me her honest opinion, always. (PS: I swear one day soon we’re going to reunite and surprise y’all with a new photo of us!)
I certainly hope so.
Let it be clear that I agree some friendships have an expiration date. There are times when we have to “break-up” with a friend because we’ve grown apart. (Rachel wrote a great post about this!) Maybe, just maybe, our friendships could continue to morph and grown and change if we were a little more forgiving and less static about how we approached them. It’s okay to mix things up and pull together a group of girlfriends who represent different aspects of our lives. What a slap in the face it was several years ago when a best friend of mine kicked me to the curb when her childhood best friend was visiting town. I wanted to learn about both of them, their history, and to see this new three-way friendship blossom into something brand new. That took many, many years to develop, but FINALLY it has.
Charlie eventually figures it out, too. It takes a long time for her to realize the mistakes she’s made and the ways she’s secluded herself, but she gets there. That’s quite possibly the highlight of Even in Paradise for me. It felt like such a revolutionary moment for me to read about something I’ve experienced so personally. But that leaves me curious…
How do you approach your friendships? Do you agree that we shouldn’t put them in a box?
ETA: I think many times I segregated my friendships because I was afraid of how people would accept other pieces of me than what they originally liked me for. What if my friend found out I went to church? Would that change the dynamic of our friendship? What if she thinks spending time on hair and makeup is stupid? What if she gives me a hard time about buying a pair of shoes when a few days ago I complained about being on a budget? I realize that those are things I find fascinating about my friends — their little intricacies and the details of their lives are what make them so rich and intriguing. I think many times I’ve “boxed” my friendships because I was afraid there were parts of me that wouldn’t be accepted. But maybe that’s a whole other can of worms… because then that boils down to whether or not that person is a friend at all, right?
So last Friday, I talked about the seasonal creep and as Halloween gets that much closer (3 days!), candy canes and singing Santa Clauses will be exploding all over the place super soon.
When I started getting emails about seasonal books releasing in the last few months of the year, I realized a list might be handy. That is what I have compiled below. Books I am preparing to read during the holiday season; some that will end up as reviews on this very blog in December. If you like to be ahead of the game and get your shopping on, I’m hoping what’s below is helpful. In addition to these, I’m adding a few more recommendations with the text. (I’m a bad influence, I know.)
Merry, er, Tuesday! (Have a good Halloween if I forget to tell you!)
⇒ The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN)
Also recommending: A Fool’s Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery (there’s a cute cat in this one!)
⇒ The Reluctant Elf by Michelle Gorman (Notting Hill Press) Christmas in Britain anyone?
⇒ My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (St. Martin’s Press Teen)
Also recommending: Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
⇒ ‘Tis the Season by Robyn Carr (Harlequin MIRA) Three novellas!
⇒ Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin HQN)
Also recommending: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan (admit to owning this and haven’t read it yet)
⇒ Snowflakes on the Sea by Linda Lael Miller (Harlequin HQN)
⇒ The Mistletoe Melody by Jennifer Snow (Harlequin Heartwarming)
Also recommending: Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside by Katherine Garbera
⇒ Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey (Carina Press)
Would love to hear your suggestions below! Never enough holiday books, I say!
Thanks for reading! ♥
Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/2/2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: cancer, friendship, family, recovery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: Zac unexpectedly meets Mia in the hospital while he is recovering from a bone marrow transplant. But their friendship is short-lived when they go back to their separate lives, only for them to reunite in a surprising way.
Around its publication date, I read a lot of middle of the road reviews for Zac and Mia. Many felt their expectations weren’t met, and so, this might be one of those situations where putting a distance between reviews and your chosen reading time leads to a positive outcome because I found Zac and Mia to be very refreshing, even if it wasn’t perfect.
I find myself thinking a lot about the choice to compare a book to two other popular ones. In this case, the book was marketed as a combo of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. But how long before this overused comparison means nothing anymore? Maybe it is helpful to the average book buyer or maybe it’s really not because I wasn’t reminded of either of them when reading Zac and Mia. Sure, there was cancer (Fault) and a boy and girl as main characters (E&P) but that was basically it. For the record, I found Fault overly pretentious, so much that any emotion I was supposed to feel was lost in a lot of big words. On the other hand, I thought E&P was charming even if it’s not my favorite of the author’s work. I realize I’m going off on a major tangent and this is a way to sell books but is it really helpful when the final product is nothing like the newsworthy titles they are relating it to? For this reader, not so much.
Anyway. I digress.
The main thing that stood out to me about A.J. Bett’s book was how she didn’t over-dramatize the cancer. We all know cancer just sucks. I’m sure we all know at least 5 people who have died from cancer. It has sadly become a word that is a normal part of our reality these days, and I appreciated how Betts explained each of Zac and Mia’s diagnoses so well, and also had them dealing with it in very real ways. Zac’s loss of friendships, Mia’s hot and cold relationship with her boyfriend, Zac knowing so much about this disease but still being surprised by its unwieldy nature, the utter devotion from family members when one of their own is diagnosed. It was a true delight to spend time with Zac’s family, especially getting to know his mother and his sister.
I was surprised the structure of the book didn’t immediately start with flip-flopping between Zac and Mia, and spent a lot of time on Zac at first. I do think that had a hand in me not getting Mia as quickly as I wanted to, but as I delved deeper into the book and got to know her better, there was an apparent change in her. (Maggie at Just a Couple More compares her to Alice in Side Effects May Vary and I can totally see that. She’s not the flat, nice character everyone wants to be friends with. She’s complicated; what a revelation!) Because we get to know Zac right off the bat and were provided with such a fuller look at his life, I felt closer to him than to Mia.
Another highlight? There wasn’t romance for sake of romance. There was attraction, yes. But this wasn’t a full-fledged love story. It was more about finding support and understanding in unexpected places, and a lot about trusting people when you are at your worst and welcoming them into your family. Zac and Mia’s friendship could have remained this momentary thing that happened in the hospital, but I think it was critical to their survival (throughout the book) that they lean on each other (despite distance).
All in all, I really enjoyed reading Zac and Mia. I loved the Australian setting, the time on Zac’s farm, and how unpredictably the story unfolded. The writing was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Betts’ work in the future.
Add Zac and Mia to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N